Staskowski Finds New Home at DeLaSalle

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

December 30, 2016

WARREN – A passion for hockey runs through the Staskowski family.

Craig Staskowski grew up in Sterling Heights playing the sport. For the past five seasons he’s been the successful varsity hockey coach for Rochester Unified, and his eldest son is named after Cam Neely, the former Boston Bruins star forward.

Staskowski, 42, is the vice president of the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association, and next season he’ll begin his two-year term as president.

But juggling responsibilities at work and home often leaves little room for outside interests such as coaching. The increasing demands of coaching, notably a growing time commitment, are taking their toll on many coaches in all sports.

Staskowski knows this all too well. He knew, eventually, his stay in Rochester was to be short-lived. His place of business and his home are in Macomb County, and traffic is most often a nightmare going west into Oakland County during peak travel time.

“It’s such a commitment to coach,” he said. “The drive after work was 30 or 35 minutes depending on traffic. I was able to make it work, but how long can you do that? I have two boys, and both will play hockey.”

This past spring Staskowski saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. The varsity coaching position at Warren DeLaSalle opened, and Staskowski was hired in May. As difficult as it was to leave Rochester, here was a chance to remain in coaching for years to come.

All in all, Staskowski and his wife, Lindsay, couldn’t be more pleased with the move. His place of business is a mile and a half away from DeLaSalle, and the drive to Mount Clemens Ice Arena where the Pilots practice is a 10-minute drive from his home.

The Staskowskis have two sons and the eldest, Cam, is 8 years old and in his second year playing travel hockey in nearby St. Clair Shores.

“I absolutely have more time to spend with my family,” Staskowski said. “It’s way more convenient. It’s a long-term commitment for me.”

Convenience wasn’t the only factor. Staskowski is a competitive person, and he’s intent on building the program at DeLaSalle to where it can compete on the same level as other members of the Detroit Catholic League like Birmingham Brother Rice, Detroit Catholic Central, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and U-D Jesuit.

Staskowski’s teams at Rochester won four Oakland Activities Association Red titles and twice reached Division 1 Regional Finals.

“Athletics is a big part of the equation at DeLaSalle,” he said. “They’ve have success in other sports. I would like our hockey program to be as good, or better, than those at C.C. and Rice. We want to win a regional and state championship. And so far we’re doing pretty well. We haven’t lost a game in regulation. And we beat U-D for the first time since 2011. And we beat them twice.”

The rivalries within the league are fierce. A team’s success is a measuring stick for how well it can compete at the state level. Staskowski graduated from Sterling Heights High, located a few miles north of DeLaSalle, and one of his best friends in high school was Don DeDonatis, who had two RBI in DeLaSalle’s 14-2 victory over Grand Ledge in the 1993 Class A Baseball Final.

“I always had great respect for the Pilots,” Staskowski said. “One of my assistant coaches, Tom Taylor, is a DeLaSalle alum. Our sons are best friends and play on the same travel team.

“I don’t know what it is about DeLaSalle. It’s something different whether it’s an all-boys school or what. The kids are polite. They’re really good kids. I know the football coach (Mike Giannone). He works at the school, and I’m sure we’ll get to know each other better.”

Giannone just completed his first season at DeLaSalle after he too left a successful local program at Macomb Dakota.

Greg Esler is the longtime basketball coach at DeLaSalle. Esler also cut his teeth coaching at another school (he left St. Clair Shores Lake Shore after the 1993-94 season) before coming to DeLaSalle. Even though Esler said times have changed, one factor remains constant.

“Kids want to be disciplined,” he said. “Whether it’s in a public school or private. There’s so much more going on now with the students with cell phones and social media. The communication is different.

“Giannone and I have a great relationship and we believe we should share kids. There’s so much specialization going on now. (Giannone) has been to our practices, and the kids know we have a good relationship. I’ve met (Staskowski) a few times. All of us want to win. If you have a good program and demand respect, you’ll be successful.”

DeLaSalle was 7-2-1 heading into its holiday break. A Dec. 9-10 trip to Marquette resulted in a loss and a tie, both in overtime.

The Pilots are led by senior left wing Thomas Hernandez, who had 30 points heading into the break. Senior Greg Pine is the center on the top line, and the two are not only best friends, but live next door to one another.

Splitting the duties in goal are junior Brandon Compton and sophomore Andrew Grewette, both of whom were on the junior varsity last season. The top defenseman is junior Jordan Kovacs.

“Pine and Hernandez compliment each other so well,” Staskowski said. “Jordan has been outstanding. You can put him out there against any line.

“I don’t even like to mention individuals because we have a great deal of depth. Yeah, we have that good line, but you have to have depth. Depth is a big part of being good.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTO: Craig Staskowski (middle, standing) directs his new Warren DeLaSalle hockey team during a game this season. (Photo courtesy of the Warren DeLaSalle hockey program.)

Traverse Bay Reps Teammates Unite to Take on Great Lakes Paddle Board Pursuit

By Tom Spencer
Special for

August 3, 2023

Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.

This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.

Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.

They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.

‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”

It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.  

Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.

Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights.  They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.

The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.

“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”

Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.

“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.

Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.   

Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.

Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.

Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.

The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.

Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.

“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”

Morris echoed Guy.

“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”

The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.

The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.

“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.

Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season.“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”

Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.

“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.

“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”

High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.

But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.  

“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”

But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.

“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)